In the past few years, solar energy has started to really take off. There are several good reasons for this. Climate change has made it important for governments and individuals to switch from dirty to clean energy sources. Solar technology has gone up while prices have come down. The United States government (as well as the state of Hawaii) offers generous tax credits to make solar much more affordable. In fact, with the tax credits, it is one of the better investments a person could make.
But solar power is still a tiny percentage of our electricity supply. Other countries have installed a great deal more solar power per capita and per GDP than the US. Countries such as Belgium and Germany are well beyond us in this category. So what gives? Why haven’t more people gone solar?
This question sometimes baffles us. We decided to search for answers.
We have a good friend that is on the fence about getting a photovoltaic system. Through informal conversations we started to learn a little about why she hadn’t pulled the trigger yet. She agreed to write us an article with the stipulation that she could remain anonymous. Here it is:
Guest Blog Posting:
Okay, first, I need to make a confession. As much as I believe, in principal, the idea of clean energy and solar photovoltaic systems, I don’t actually own one. Yes, I totally believe the world should move towards energy sustainability. Years ago I installed a solar hot water system. I recycle my glass, plastic and aluminum bottles and cardboard. I buy organic produce from my local farmer’s market. Maybe not much in the big scheme of things but my mantra has always been, “every little bit helps”.
Okay, but why not the bigger leap? Solar photovoltaic is such an amazing deal. Financially it didn’t make sense before, but now with government credits it not only is a great deal, but really, one of the better investments around. At least that’s what my accountant tells me.
So why haven’t I done it?
1st hesitation. Cost.
I didn’t have the money up front to pay for photovoltaic panels and their installation. You see, I don’t like buying things on borrowed money. I try to pay everything with cash. Food, clothes, utility bills, even my car was paid with cash. Other than my mortgage, I don’t have loans that I have to make payments on. I don’t use credit cards (debit cards okay, credit cards- no). Yes, I know, borrow the money for pv, the savings would be far more than the interest I would be paying. But this is the way I like to live. It’s worked for me and I’m sticking with it.
In all honesty, my accountant says to go ahead and borrow the money. Put the tax credits and the monthly amount I would’ve been paying to the electric company towards the loan. I would be free and clear in a little over five years. Make extra payments and the time decreases even further. After that, electricity is basically free.
2nd hesitation. Dependability.
How long will the solar system last? Will this be the great investment that everyone claims? What happens if the photovoltaic system doesn’t work after two or three years, or doesn’t give me the output that I was expecting?
When it comes to money, I am pretty cautious. So I tread carefully in all things fiscal. If I’m ordering something online, I read tons of reviews. I don’t like getting burned with crappy products. I look for sales (who doesn’t love a sale?) but I’m also willing to pay more if it means a better product over the long run. I’m a bang for the buck kind of person.
So the idea of buying something, especially when we’re talking about something in the plus twenty K range brings up all my caution antennae. My brain and calculator says everything makes sense. My accountant just got pv and hot water solar for his house and said it’s really difficult to find a greater return on investment (or ROI as he calls it). So, why the trepidation? I guess it’s the unknown. What’s funny is that I had no issues with getting hot water solar. But that only cost me six grand. Twenty plus grand makes my heart race.
3rd hesitation. Which company?
Here’s the deal. In Hawaii, there seems to be a new solar company popping up every other hour. Half the commercials on television seem to be solar-related. Who the heck do I go with? This is where my years of habit of checking online reviews came in handy. In this case I decided to check out companies. The first thing I found out is many of the companies out there are fairly new. I mean one or two years new… some even only a few months. I won’t point them out, but the idea of going with a company that just opened up shop a couple of years ago makes me nervous, especially when they’re supposed to cover my warranty for twenty years. And a lot of them don’t specialize only in solar. They are either electricians or plumbing companies disguised as solar companies. I heard stories of how great the company was in the beginning, but when you needed servicing all of a sudden their phone wasn’t working any more. Yikes!
Okay, I’ve found several companies that specialize in solar that have been around for over twenty years. Some over thirty. Some of them seem to have pretty good reputations. I’m feeling a little better.
I’ve gone around and gotten info on a general idea of what size system I would need and the rough costs. I actually have enough money to pay for a chunk of it up front and can borrow the rest. I am seriously mulling pulling the trigger. The numbers make sense and I think I’ve got my solar company picked out. I am ninety percent there and the more I think about it, the better I feel about going forward. If and when I go ahead, I’ll write about it later. Something tells me I’ll look back and wonder why I didn’t do it sooner. We’ll see. I just need to check those Yelp reviews a couple more times.